DLGP

Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Welcome to the World of the Powers

Written by: on November 29, 2023

Introduction:

Woodward’s recently released book, The Scandal of Leadership: Unmasking the Powers of Domination in the Church, is impressive. It is one of the books I will return to time and time again. For now, I want to bring a few excerpts from the author’s interview on a podcast with Rohadi.

A Correlation between scandalous leaders and Domonic powers

Woodward started by explaining that he had had the intention to write the book for over 20 years, referring to an organization that he had been working for: “It seemed like whoever got into that President role, they may have been a fairly good person, but they became less good when they got in that role.”[1]

The podcast captured my attention as Woodward started by explaining how he connected to the work of Walter Wink on resisting the powers. The author describes his invitation to speak on Spiritual warfare while this high-ranking leader was falling into a scandal, and he explains the two had something in common.

Naming the Powers: So here’s the problem we could see: it doesn’t matter the week, there’ll be a new news report, a new documentary, and some minister, some pastor, we can pick on the big mega churches, but it can be big or small.[2]

Referring to Wink’s writing, one would think of the devils everywhere we go and wonder whose territory we live in and whether this is a place we can expect the Kingdom values to thrive; it must be a terrifying place to live and serve God.

Mimetic Desire: As described by the author, mimetic desire is not self-generated but happens due to influence. “Girard discovers that mimetic desire is a triangular relationship where individuals desire what their models desire.”[3] For over two decades in North America, I have stayed very close and served with the African ethnic Churches. The problem of leadership is common in all churches, but titles and hierarchy are probably more prominent in these African ethnic churches than in any other place. The only title they haven’t tried is the Pope; otherwise, they will do everything possible to climb to the highest level of authority. I am very uncomfortable when an individual gets up and claims he is an apostle or a Bishop with bold explanations on how God spoke to them in person or through prophets and gave them the authority.

Naming the Powers: Image, Institution, Ideology:
The author adopts William Stringfellow’s categorization of powers into image, institution, and ideology. [4]

 Image: The powers’ influence through self-image and desire.[5]

Institution: Powers become problematic when seeking survival at the expense of others.[6]
Ideology: The powers manifest through various -isms, shaping how individuals read and interpret Scripture.[7]

Woodward explains Wink’s project, which he did very well explaining the reality of the Powers’ presence in real life. “A contractor pays off a building inspector so he can violate the code and put up a shoddy and possibly unsafe structure. A power plant exposes its employees to radioactive poisoning; the employee who attempts to document these safety infractions is forced off the road by another car and dies. All her documents are missing.”[8]

The Complex Web of the Powers and Principalities

Reading Wink’s work explains the brutal battle between good and evil in our world; this reality or ‘re-mythologized’ myths will scare even the strongest among us! “All of us deal with the Powers That Be. They staff our hospitals, run City Hall, sit around tables in corporate boardrooms, collect taxes, and head our families.”[9] Wink’s work clarifies the problems we deal with daily, whether we are in the Church, government, or everywhere we go.

 

[1] Rohadi, “#71 – JR Woodward on the Scandal of Leadership (Part 1),” The Scandal of Leadership, n.d., https://www.rohadi.com/podcast/71-jr-woodward-on-the-scandal-of-leadership-part-1/.

[2] Rohadi.

[3] Rohadi, “#71 – JR Woodward on the Scandal of Leadership (Part 1).”

[4] Rohadi.

[5] Rohadi.

[6] Rohadi.

[7] Rohadi.

[8] Jason Goroncy, “The Powers of Death: Recognition, Resistance, Resurrection,” Jurnal Jaffray 19, no. 1 (March 10, 2021): 1, https://doi.org/10.25278/jj.v19i1.555.

[9] Goroncy.

About the Author

mm

Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe

Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe is a Clinical Correctional Chaplain and former Child Refugee from War-torn Rwanda. A member of the Maxwell Leadership Certified Team, Jean is passionate about Servant Leadership and looks forward to seeing more leaders that inspire Lasting Peace and Justice for all, especially "the least of these".

8 responses to “Welcome to the World of the Powers”

  1. mm David Beavis says:

    Thank you for your summary Jean! Yes, the powers are everywhere and are at work behind institutions and people in leadership positions. What are key clues you look for in identifying if there is an institution that is imitating the powers?

  2. Jean – It’s interesting that you see the problems of titles and hierarchy as being more prominent in African ethnic churches. I would not have thought that to be the case. Do you think there’s a cultural reason for that? If so, what is your hypothesis about why that is?

    • Thanks Laura,
      I hope I was clear explaining my close association with thee African ethnic churches for the last 2 decades, is it possible that other churches have the same or similar issue? It’s very possible I would love to know what you think!
      Answering your question, Personally, I think it’s a combination of different things including culture, victimization and colonialism plus poverty and a mindset of scarcity. Unfortunately religious leaders in Africa seem to be taking cues from secular (political) leadership in practice. It is possible that in most African communities democracy is tolerated but autocracy is valued and practiced indirectly. That’s why all over Africa leaders cling to power for life in fear that once the relinquish authority they would reap what they planted, and prefer to be rulers till death. Church leaders seem not to be different in leadership circles probably for a different reasons.

      • Audrey Robinson says:

        Jean,
        Please clarify when you mention African ethnic churches are you also including African American churches?

        One of the things I’ve observed with Black denominational churches here in the U.S. is that they do like control and the titles. I’ve always attributed it to the church being the one place that a Black person might be ‘seen’ as somebody important.

        • Hi Audrey,
          Thanks for the question for clarification. When I speak of the African ethnic Church, I mean those who migrated from Africa recently. Interestingly, you have observed the same tendency in the African-American Church, and I also agree with your observation, looking for a place to be ‘seen.’ The immigrant pastor will be very invisible in America for various reasons; once he finds a city in the States with people from Africa who might know some of his fame back home, he will establish a presence and work hard to gain influence in the city.

  3. Hi David,
    Thanks for the good question. I think the key clues would be the motive behind the establishment. Was it for self-promotion? Promoting selfish or destructive agenda or was it value-based, people centric servant leadership motivated. Anytime I realize the motives are far from transforming lives, helping others for the better and inspired by the Holy Spirit, I would think twice before drawing closer.

  4. mm Daron George says:

    Jean, in your exploration of Woodward’s insights on the influence of “Powers” within church leadership, how do you think congregations and church bodies can more effectively recognize and counteract these powers to cultivate a healthier, more Christ-centered leadership environment?

  5. Great question Daron,
    I have appreciated and would love to dive deeper into Roxburgh’s observation as Woodward shared: “The professional-counselor approach reduced the gospel by centering on the human potential of private individuals; the manager sought to develop an organization shaped to meet the spiritual needs of consumers and to maximize market penetration for numerical growth, and the technician sought to control outcomes with the ascendancy of technique.” I believe reversing the trend as indicated by Roxburgh and engaging the culture with the gospel and reconnection of church and mission would remedy our current challenges.

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